Prove your humanity

Ever since Dwayne Johnson’s scene-stealing debut in Fast Five, there’s been talk of a spin-off centred around his hardened Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs. Johnson’s become a staple of the franchise ever since, and while his relationships with his Fast & Furious co-stars Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson may have soured of recent, he gets to take centre stage without them and instead capitalise on the fun, antagonistic relationship between villain turned anti-hero Deckard Shaw established in the series’ last instalment—The Fate of the Furious.

The prospect of Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw may not impress Fast & Furious series purists, but teaming up the last film’s strongest elements seemed like a no-brainer. That phrasing is fitting because this film has very little of said brains—and that’s just fine. It favours bombast and bickering over brains at every turn, and for this film, that’s perfectly okay.

Our titular duo has to reluctantly join forces when Deckard’s MI6 agent sister Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with a lethal virus to keep it out of the hands of Eteon—a techno-terrorist organisation intent on human evolution…and worldwide genocide. On the trio’s tail is Eteon operative Brixton Lore (Idris Elba)—a cyber-genetically enhanced super solider who Deckard thought he had eliminated years prior. They must find a way to rid Hattie of the virus and prevent Brixton from getting to her before she can release the pathogen into the world.

It’s important to reiterate that Hobbs & Shaw is an astronomically dumb movie. It’s unbelievably absurd in every possible way, so much that it makes the last four films look grounded in comparison. You could construe that as a negative, but it’s absolutely not. While this series has become far more absurd as it’s progressed, the drama often surrounding Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto kept some parts grounded, if very soap opera-like in nature. Without Diesel, this is 100 per cent preposterous, crazy and self-aware.

Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) clearly wants to harken back to classic buddy cop films of the ‘80s and create something in the vein of Lethal Weapon and Tango & Cash. It has a classic buddy cop conceit. These are two people who don’t get along and have extremely different methods in getting the job done, but whether they want to admit it or not, they’re actually a great pair. The duo’s fundamental differences are shown in a split-screen sequence depicting their respective days, from their morning routine to a physical altercation. While Shaw creates a gourmet breakfast seasoned to perfection, Hobbs eats coffee grinds out the bag and skulls four egg yolks. Shaw drives a sports car, Hobbs drives a lumbering truck. Shaw sums their respective fighting styles to a T stating, “The minute he gets involved you can kiss goodbye to any finesse because She-Hulk here only knows how to smash.” You get the idea.

Hobbs & Shaw always takes the ‘more is more’ approach. Long-time series scribe Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) load the script with constant banter between Hobbs and Shaw. So much so, it can even overwhelm at times, but the rapport between the duo is so giddily entertaining that I could forgive its overindulgences. While it’s obviously a part of the Fast & Furious universe, it shares a lot of its DNA with aforementioned buddy comedies, Mission: Impossible-like globetrotting spy hijinks, a villain who could’ve been plucked out of the Kingsman series, and unashamedly introduces sci-fi elements because…why not?

Johnson and Statham basically play elevated versions of their real-life personas at this point in the series. Their dynamic is extremely entertaining to watch and they’re clearly having a blast riffing with one another. Johnson has a very mixed resume outside of this franchise, but it’s in this series where his brand of likability just works. Both he and Statham can deliver one-liners for days. Idris Elba is having fun playing Brixton and the character really works as a serious physical threat to our heroes. But it’s Vanessa Kirby who’s this film’s real secret weapon. We saw glimpses of her action prowess in Mission: Impossible – Fallout and here we get to see that prowess on full show. She’s fierce, charismatic and completely holds her own. Considering she’s literally a human MacGuffin, she’s an incredibly capable character for the most part. It was a shame to see her sidelined in the third act more than I’d hoped because she excels in the action set pieces.

These set pieces are where esteemed action director David Leitch displays his ability to meld his trademark sleekness with the series’ large-scale bombast. As the director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, it’s no surprise that the hand-to-hand sequences are some of the film’s finest. Every bit of hand-to-hand action is stylishly constructed from a choreography and cinematography perspective—the latter thanks to Leitch’s long-time collaborator Jonathan Sela. The larger-scale set pieces can sometimes feel slightly artificial and heavily aided by VFX due to the sheer impossibility of doing them wholly practically, but they’re still absurdly enjoyable due to the physics-defying nature of them. A set-piece involving interlocking cars trying to take down a helicopter via chain had me giddily laughing at the sheer audacity of it. A slow-motion heavy fight during a thunderstorm essentially gives Leitch a chance to do a bigger version of his final fight in John Wick.

You can absolutely pick this movie apart in terms of its plot, which is basically that of Mission: Impossible 2. Like that film, there’s a nefarious virus and a rogue agent wants it to spread chaos. Far more so than a Mission: Impossible instalment, the plot is merely a framework to string together action set pieces. It’s a very shaky framework which contains many characters who simply function as nothing more than plot devices before they disappear. The film’s largest set-piece goes from pitch-black night to a clear morning to a violent thunderstorm in the space of thirty minutes. I would honestly care more if the film took itself seriously, but it doesn’t.

If you’re not on this film’s wavelength in terms of the ability to accept this as a complete cartoon where characters shouldn’t survive anything, and physics and the limits of human strength is completely thrown out the window, you’ll check out immediately. It doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. Its two superstar cameos are merely included to enhance its enjoyability, but they still work.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is dumb. I can’t really describe it any differently. It escalates this series’ ridiculousness to near interstellar heights. The amount of testosterone seeping out of the screen is immense, and the film acknowledges that. And in true Fast & Furious fashion, the thematic crux is still family, even if it doesn’t beat you over the head as much with that notion. Is it a smart film? Absolutely not. But it works because the rapport between Johnson and Statham is sizzling and the film knows exactly how bombastic it is, and it takes that self-awareness in its stride. Sometimes physics isn’t required.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is in cinemas now.